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No spectrum to any player till TEC report

October 24, 2007 16:00 IST
The government on Wednesday said it will not allocate any spectrum to existing operators, license holders and new applicants till a scientific evaluation was done by the Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC).

"There is scarcity of spectrum and number of applicants are much more than actually can be accommodated... Applications must be synchronised by a legal process... We have referred the matter to Law Ministry to get Solicitor General's views on the matter," Telecom Minister A Raja said.

On allegations levelled by Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) that Department of Telecom has shown haste in deciding the new guidelines announced last week, the Minister said: "Having received the recommendations from TRAI, the matter was referred to the Telecom Commission.

"The Telecom Commission accepted TRAI's recommendations on use of two technologies under same license while on the issue of enhanced subscriber linked criteria, the matter was referred to TEC for further evaluation," Raja said, adding so there was no case for any hasty decision or favouring any one operator as alleged by the existing operators.

Asked about the fate of over 500 applicants waiting for fresh telecom licenses, he said the DoT is in favour of completing the exercise fast, but in accordance with the views of Law Ministry, which will ultimately help subscribers in terms of lower tariffs and spread of services.

The government, through its counsel, has also assured telecom tribunal TDSAT that no spectrum would be given to any player till November 12, the next date of hearing on a petition filed by COAI against the new norms.

The minister said the TEC would submit its report by October 30. On the issue of COAI approaching TDSAT against the government's new telecom policy, Raja said "their views have been heard across the table... It was kept in mind while formulating the new norms. Still, if COAI wants to go to court, it's their right."

COAI, an association of GSM lobby, had on Tuesday challenged the government's decision to allow dual technology by a single operator and enhancing subscriber base for allocation of additional spectrum.

DoT appears to have taken a decision on enhanced subscriber-based criterion after TRAI observed that the existing operators with the given amount of spectrum can serve more number of subscribers, as is done in developed countries. But the ministry preferred to have it evaluated by TEC before making any allocation.

With the scarcity of spectrum, only 2-3 more players can be accommodated in the industry. The crossover of technology would help faster roll out of services and bring down mobile tariffs and handset prices further.

The Defence Ministry is likely to release 20-25 MHz of spectrum by the end of November, Raja said.

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